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Having a 'side-language'

Is there much benefit in having a side-language that's easier than your first just to learn casually? I've been learning Japanese for 5 months or so now but I always feel like I could get fluent in Spanish before I even get close in Japanese. I did this for a few weeks with Esperanto, but what about a real language like Spanish, would it just complicate things?

I'd love to hear everyone's opinions!

January 14, 2018



I think having a side language is a good idea. Sometimes your brain just needs a break from focussing on one thing, and if you then have a side language to switch to for a few days or lessons, you pick up thd basics of another language without really trying.

Edit: Japanise/Spanish sounds like a good combination, too. Very different languages, so there’s little risk of getting them mixed up.


There are benefits, like seeing similar concepts (Politeness in Spanish and Japanese are important, more so in Japanese) and even seeing similar words ("pan" means bread in both Japanese and Spanish. In fact in Japanese, it's a loanword, from Portuguese I think). A downside is that you will learn both languages a little slower, but once you achieve something in either language it's a little harder to forget.


Yes, it's from portuguese, I looked it up after thinking it was from French. I'm in no rush to learn Japanese because I'm currently just focusing on Kanji characters so I can start to really learn through texting people. So I figured it wouldn't hurt to do an "easy" language like Spanish while I'm not doing any grammar for Japanese. Is Spanish really easier than Japanese? Aside from the writing system it doesn't seem it.


The grammar in Spanish gets more complicated than Japanese (especially verb-wise) but it's closer to English than Japanese is, so it's easier to find similar words and form sentences once you know how.


Sticking with Japanese, eh? Great decision. I do agree with @juliecaesar, sometimes your brain needs a break from something. Spanish would be a good side language considering how it is much easier than Japanese. Also, love how you're really taking advantage of the discussion stream (in a good way) to enhance your language journey. It's up to you, but I think you should do it, just make sure you don't distract yourself too much towards one language or another, you want to keep it balanced. Good luck!


Yeah, I'm sort of using it to fight my indecisiveness lol. I realized my interest in Mandarin and China more came from me just not wanting to be like everyone else, but in the long run I really shouldn't worry about that. Maybe I'll change my mind again in a week, but hopefully not.


Japanese would not conflict with Spanish or other 'western' languages per se. The overriding question is how much time you have available to devote to acquiring the vocabulary and grammar structures of a second language. Knowing English is certainly an advantage when learning the vocabulary of a Romance language and the peculiarities of grammar can be dealt with if you attend to your studies. Give it a go and find out!


It depends on many factors like...how adept are you at picking up languages? How much time do you put in? What is your native language? Between Spanish and Japanese, the first would be easier in general, if you're mother tongue is a Romance language. I am trying to learn more Spanish and German. I started out doing both each day, but found that confused them in my head, so now I do a week or several days of one, then switch. Viel Gluck! Buena suerte!


I try not to do similar subjects in different languages at once. Like if I'm learning food in French, don't learn it in German too.


I don’t have any science to back me up, but I think of language learning as a skill in itself, like a mental workout for the linguistic part of my mind so I feel like no matter what language I am practicing I am strengthening my language skills all around. Of course, this is purely subjective, so I don’t know what works for you, but sometimes I find when I take a break from one language to practice another, when I return, that.s often when something clicks.


I have a personal hypothesis that your brain's learning to speak a language is a learned skill in and of itself. I base this on my personal experience. I remember just how hard learning my first foreign language, French, was. Everything just seemed confusing, and the notion of speaking in a language other than English so very strange. I started Russian later; it's much harder to learn for an English speaker than French. However, I felt like I've pretty much always been able to speak, as much as my vocabulary allows. In French, it was as if I knew all kinds of things but still couldn't manage to string them together. But once my brain learned about that, it just always sort of did it for Russian. I've never seen anybody else recount something similar though, so this may be idiosyncratic.

So in short, personally, I definitely like "side languages" for themselves, but I also think they can yield real assistance in getting to a higher level in your primary language.

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